Saturday, April 5, 2008

Etiquette & Manners Police in Japan

In my recent trip to Tokyo I was amazed to know about Japanese “Etiquette & Manners squad”.
City hires etiquette squad to shame commuters guilty of chin-ups and golf swings.

I raised my eyebrows and various thoughts started jumping in mind and for a while I compared Pakistani social manners with Japanese, gap seemed to be huge.

A young woman applies her makeup, pouting into a handheld mirror as she adds the finishing touches to her lips. In the next seat, a young businessman bellows into his mobile phone, and across the aisle, a middle-aged "salaryman" executes chin-ups on an overhead handrail, blissfully unaware that his overcoat is brushing the legs of the woman seated in front of him.

A montage of life on a Tokyo commuter train this week - and proof that the Japanese, supposedly the most courteous people on Earth, are forgetting their manners. Decrying the decline in standards of public behaviour is a favourite pastime the world over, but in Japan the hand wringing is not confined to stuffy social commentators.

A new survey by the Asahi Shimbun daily found that nine out of 10 Japanese believe manners have deteriorated to critical levels - a trend that in recent times has prompted requests for MPs to refrain from texting during debates, and for broadsheet readers to fold their newspapers on rush-hour trains.


As they witness a rising incidence of "carriage rage" and other displays of un-Japanese conduct, many Japanese are wondering what has become of a society in which just about every social interaction was governed by a time-honoured code of conduct.

Japan is, after all, a place where business cards are exchanged with both hands and accompanied by a bow of appropriate depth; where a simple "Excuse me" can be delivered using one of several expressions; where blowing one's nose at the table is near-unforgivable; and where people over a certain age conclude phone calls with a respectful bow to their unseen interlocutor.

Members of the Smile-Manner Squadron, most of whom are well over 60, hope to embarrass young miscreants into vacating their seats rather than allow them to nap or, more commonly, to pretend to be asleep, while those in greater need of a rest are left standing.

The 11 enforcers - officially known as "manner upgraders" - will wear bright green uniforms so that they can be easily spotted by offenders. Each will be paid about £7 a day and accompanied by a younger bodyguard in case a snoozing salaryman takes exception.

If Japanese etiquette squad works for one week in Pakistan, I guess they would end up putting millions of Pakistanis on shame.

1 comment:

Samra said...

Exceptional article. And I never knew this about Japan! V thought provoking in terms of how we Pakistanis behave in our every day lives, that too in public without giving a second thought to the words 'manners' or 'social etiquettes'! ;O